As I start to write this, I still am in a state of shock over the most ambitious video game business announcement that I never anticipated would happen particularly with Xbox. People are already talking about it a lot right now. I’m referring to Microsoft’s megaton acquisition of ZeniMax Media which is the parent company of game publishing giant Bethesda Softworks. The deal is worth $7.5 billion (in cash) and it includes acquiring Bethesda Softworks, Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog, and Roundhouse Studios. The said studios have a combined work force of more than 2,300 employees. This megaton development alone makes me want to acquire an Xbox Series X unit even more!
To put things in perspective, below is an excerpt (with key parts in bold) from the Xbox.com blog post by Xbox head Phil Spencer:
Bethesda’s games have always had a special place on Xbox and in the hearts of millions of gamers around the world. Our teams have a close and storied history working together, from the amazing first DOOM, and its id Tech engine, innovating games on PCs to Bethesda bringing their first console game to the original Xbox, the groundbreaking The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Over the years I’ve had many deep conversations with the creative leaders at Bethesda on the future of gaming and we’ve long shared similar visions for the opportunities for creators and their games to reach more players in more ways.
Just as they took the bold first steps to bring The Elder Scrolls franchise to the original Xbox, Bethesda were early supporters of Xbox Game Pass, bringing their games to new audiences across devices and have been actively investing in new gaming technology like cloud streaming of games. We will be adding Bethesda’s iconic franchises to Xbox Game Pass for console and PC. One of the things that has me most excited is seeing the roadmap with Bethesda’s future games, some announced and many unannounced, to Xbox console and PC including Starfield, the highly anticipated, new space epic currently in development by Bethesda Game Studios.
Like us, Bethesda are passionate believers in building a diverse array of creative experiences, in exploring new game franchises, and in telling stories in bold ways. All of their great work will of course continue and grow and we look forward to empowering them with the resources and support of Microsoft to scale their creative visions to more players in new ways for you.
All of our work, and the foundation of our relationship with you, starts with a commitment to deliver a breadth of amazing games to discover and play on Xbox. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been excited to share more detail on important elements of a plan we’ve been building towards for years. A plan that is the fulfilment of a promise, to you the Xbox player, to deliver the most performant, immersive and compatible next-generation gaming experiences, and the freedom to play blockbuster games with your friends, anytime, anywhere. Today is a landmark step in our journey together and I’m incredibly energized by what this step means for Xbox.
As confirmed by Spencer, the acquisition of Bethesda is more than just adding to Xbox Games Studios existing lineup of game makers and more than just adding games for Xbox and PC gamers to play. The acquisition also means adding even more games to the fast-growing and successful Xbox Game Pass subscription program which recently saw its subscribers reach 15,000,000+ (a jump of 50% in less than six months’ time!). The addition of Bethesda’s iconic franchises – Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Wolfenstein and Dishonored to name some – will surely add tremendous value to Xbox Game Pass and even more exciting is the confirmation that Bethesda’s upcoming sci-fi Starfield will also be added! These developments are already exciting gamers to order Xbox Series S or Xbox Series X as I write this.
Think about it. If you are already a paying Xbox Game Pass subscriber by the time Starfield gets released, you can simply visit Xbox LIVE and download the said game for free (because you already paid for the subscription). Those who are not XGP subscribers will have to pull out a lot of money to buy Starfield at the retail store or elsewhere online.
Already Team Xbox and its many Xbox Games Studios are already creating new and exclusive games for Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X plus PC. Microsoft no longer has a shortage of console exclusives and all the criticism thrown at them (“Xbox has no exclusives!”, “Xbox has no great games!”) are meaningless now. The addition of Bethesda studios into the many Xbox Game Studios further ensures more exclusive games in the years to come and this alone gives Microsoft a huge advantage over Sony and Nintendo!
This brings me to another sensitive topic: the Bethesda projects that are exclusive to others or are multi-platform in arrangement. Bethesda currently has two games that are exclusive to Sony’s PlayStation 5 (PS5) and Phil Spencer made clear that Microsoft will honor the exclusivity commitments of those games. In short, the Bethesda-Sony deal for those two games won’t be scrapped. Other Bethesda games coming to platforms that are not Xbox-related will happen on a case-by-case basis with Microsoft having the final decision. All of these are part of the complications that come with acquiring a huge game publisher with existing deals made with other platform makers.
But if you look into the far future, the Xbox-Bethesda megaton deal will eventually lead to sequels of Fallout, Elder Scrolls and other franchises that will be released exclusively on Xbox platforms and PC, and the Bethesda brand will remain. Bethesda’s famous role-playing game (RPG) franchises alone makes Xbox an even more attractive ecosystem for gamers who love RPGs. Think about it! Imagine playing Fallout and Elder Scrolls sequels (or remastered versions of Skyrim or Fallout 4) on Xbox Series X years from now enjoying all the massive content presented with 4K resolution, 60 FPS frame rate, great visuals and much shorter load times. With Microsoft having the more technologically superior console (Xbox Series X compared to PS5 with disc drive) and a much bigger and stronger 1st party game lineup, gamers will realize the benefits of the Xbox-Bethesda deal.
If Microsoft wants to make even more money and sell more, they can always decide to make Fallout and Elder Scrolls sequels available on PS5 and other platforms (even on Nintendo’s next-generation console). Microsoft acquired Mojang years ago and kept Minecraft available on multiple platforms (including those of Sony, Nintendo, iOS and more). When it comes to the next console generation with Bethesda’s many games being played, I expect their multi-platform games to look and play better on Xbox Series X than on PS5.
I should also state that Microsoft having Bethesda under its extensive corporate umbrella and ownership of the many intellectual properties (IP) of the company means that the dream of producing sequel to Fallout New Vegas is no longer impossible! Microsoft also owns Obsidian Entertainment, the very same team that worked with Bethesda for Fallout New Vegas, and they can decide to assign them to produce a sequel complete with a lot of human, technological and financial resources to back them! While I love the idea of Obsidian making Fallout New Vegas 2, I personally prefer they keep focusing on making their major fantasy RPG Avowed (ironically an ambitious game described as something to rival Bethesda’s Skyrim) and making a next-generation sequel to The Outer Worlds (which I love playing). A new Fallout New Vegas can be released on Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X AFTER the respective releases of Avowed, Starfield and Elder Scrolls VI many years from now.
Apart from the very promising benefits gamers will soon have from the Xbox-Bethesda deal, Microsoft also deserves praise for their transparency with gamers about their next-generation consoles, their expanding 1st party game studios lineup, Xbox All Access, Xbox Game Pass and the like. Transparency aside, Team Xbox also proved to stay honest and well organized with gamers unlike Sony’s PlayStation division. Watch the videos below regarding Sony…
The Xbox-Bethesda deal alone motivates me even more to acquire an Xbox Series X console and also sign up at last on Xbox Game Pass. I am certain that I am not the only geek experiencing the excitement about the very bright future of fun, engaging and high-value gaming with Xbox. With Bethesda’s RPG franchises alone, Xbox is already the best and definitive ecosystem for people who love playing role-playing games (note: Microsoft has Avowed coming and hopefully a The Outer Worlds sequel from Obsidian, plus established support from Square Enix with a Dragon Quest game coming out this December). This is something that Sony (even with Final Fantasy XVI a timed exclusive on their PS5) and Nintendo cannot match! Going back to Bethesda, they really had gone a long way and their decades-old history of doing business with Microsoft is undeniable. The very first time I played a Bethesda game on Microsoft hardware was none other than Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion on Xbox 360 and that was way back in 2006. In the past decade, I played Skyrim on Xbox 360 and Fallout 4 on Xbox One. Personally, I am happy that Microsoft acquired Bethesda with not only the Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X in mind but for the long term…the far future!
In ending this, watch these videos from Dealer Gaming, Colteastwood, Rand al Thor 19 and Zalker 87 for additional insight about the Xbox-Bethesda deal!
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